Album Review: Frank Iero And The Future Violents - 'Barriers'
Frank Iero is back with a new album and new name for his solo project, Frank Iero and the Future Violents. Iero’s solo career has always seemed to bridge the gap between the MCR material many fans know him from and his often more raucous side projects such as Leathermouth. With the first two solo records, 2014’s Stomachaces and 2016’s Parachutes, Iero takes a solid punk rock core and messes it around crafting an addictive yet raw sound. In his own words he never expected to be making solo records, “let alone three”. I for one am glad he is.
The approaching record, Barriers, proved to be no exception from the start. The news that the record would be produced by the humble yet legendary Steve Albini had me eager from the start. The first single, Young and Doomed, came next and it confirmed some suspicions but threw up surprises with it’s synths and a witty MCR throwback. As a long time fan I simply could not wait to hear what other surprises this record would have in store.
A New Day’s Coming opens on a gospel tinged note but still adorned by Iero’s distinct vocals. This really was a surprise way to open the record, the best kind of surprise. Right from the start you know that we’re somewhat outside the box. The guitars, once in, sound glorious in all their fuzz and grime. The track builds and builds before breaking and fading into Young and Doomed. While the track is out and you can just go listen to it and make up your own mind I feel the need to state just how well this song follows on. It pushes you on into the record, surging forward with energy. The perfect single and the perfect number two track.
Once Young and Doomed is over we get the distinctly more on edge Fever Dream. Iero’s vocals are rawer and the riffs more manic with a tense piano riff. We open out with pounding, fuzzy guitar walls before ducking down into the verse. The pre chorus soon strikes, building with piano and dirty guitars before we’re back into that snarling chorus. It’s a dark, twisting, moody ride of a track. It goes like a song possessed and a ferocity that contrasts with the next track, The Host. A jangly guitar and a steady beat take us along the songs enchanting path. The song is almost hypnotic even when breaking into a walls of fuzz during the chorus with squealing harmonics.
Through to the middle point we get songs such as grungy Ode to Destruction and almost country tinged track, The Unfortunate. This record keeps throwing stylistic changes and curveballs throughout its runtime, all wrapped up in a well produced package.
Moto Pop is a track that jumped out from first listen and never will it stop doing that, it’s name burned in my mind. It’s frenetic drum beat intro opening with a guitar and a whoop into an absolutely killer riff. Iero pops up in gaps to shout out lyrics and continue the hype. It’s that song that grabs by the ears and forces you to pay attention even if you already were.
Medicine Square Garden follows Moto Pop with some its longer runtime and lithe riffs. Where Moto Pop is an on the fly release, Medicine is a long slow build to an epic release. No Love comes in next with it’s jangling, odd sounds and killer melodies to top if off. At this point in it’s runtime the record has shown us plenty of variation and there’s still more to come.
Skipping quickly through the shadowy Police Police, the piano led melodrama of Great Party and the winding rocker, Six Feet Down Under (all great tracks but let's leave you some to discover on you own) we get to 24K Lush. The records closer fully embraces the dreamy sounds that have cropped up across the record, diving into them with reverb soaked guitars. An shoegazing chorus erupts through, soaring with the male and female vocal work that’s cropped up across the record to great effect each time. Here it’s even more emotive, both of them belting out those long notes with feeling against the crushing guitar wave. It’s one of those closers that really hits the spot, experimenting in spirit of the album and throwing open the doors for whatever comes next.
Barriers is a strong entry to Iero’s growing discography. He himself says that he hopes the record “scares the shit out of them”, them being fans of course. With all of Barriers’ genre mashing and twists I think he’s accomplished that. Barriers is a record that really breaks any moulds people may have formed around Iero. It’s fresh in style but familiar sound in a way, aided by the signature Albini production. The lyrics are as charming as ever with their little turns that we’ve always seen from Iero. Whether he’s softly singing or in full on snarl, every word hits home.
Fans of previous efforts should almost certainly give it a listen, you’d be mad not to. It’s well paced, well produced, well written, it’s hard to find a chink in the records fuzzy armour. This one will stick around in the rotation for a long while and it’ll certainly get the crowd shouting and screaming along tour after tour.
Words by Nathan Blackstone